…that my child is extremely impressionable and that what I do and how I behave absolutely and directly influences what he then does and how he behaves.
…that my yelling may seem like a great release for me but may do irreparable damage to his ability to learn the action-consequence-reaction dynamic.
…that my throwing things in anger and frustration, screaming at him, and basically just losing it completely may permanently alter the ways in which he learns to process negative emotions.
…that my inability to control and more appropriately channel my impatience and temper may teach him, if it hasn’t already, that lashing out at others and being rude are somehow acceptable behaviors. They’re not!
…to become a better mother, to keep my calm, to act more maturely, to not let my emotions get the better of me, to do right by my children – always or most times anyway.
I am so flawed in so many, many ways that it is not only not funny, it is downright cruel to everyone around me. It’s almost as if I exist to make others’ lives miserable and yet for some odd reason, which I shall never quite fathom, there are people in this world, who still actually love me. Some, of course, love me because well, one, they had limited choice in that matter since I was their child or sister, and two, because they are just amazing people who truly don’t place conditions before their love. My husband though, he did have a choice and yet, he actually loves me enough to have wanted to marry me and he is still around! [feel the urge to channel my inner Julie Andrews here]…somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good…to actually deserve him.
Then there are my children, my sweet and innocent children, who absolutely did not have a choice in being born to me and all the demons that surround me.
Two recent incidents have made me highly reflective of who I am and whom I am turning out to be and it is not someone I like.
[Knowing myself is a lifelong project and this post is one of the many posts in that series]
The matter of the batter
Yesterday, as we sometimes do, TJ and I baked together. Usually, this is a lot of fun and I enjoy this time with him as I am sure he does too. Perhaps it was because we were going to have visitors later in the morning or perhaps it was because Baby E had kept me awake most of the night and had me waking up before the crack of drawn, that I was on the edge and extremely cranky but our little baking experience together just did not go well.
TJ loves helping with measuring things and then pouring them into pans which he did just fine, with my help. I even stirred all the ingredients together to get a somewhat decent consistency before I let him stir. We were making Pumpkin Muffins. Then, all hell broke loose. He wanted to pour the batter into the muffin tray. Of course, he wants to do this. He is a child and this is so much fun! In fact, pouring batter into the circular dents of a pan is the most exciting part of the baking process, save for the actual baked product.
He kept saying, “Mommy me, me, me” or “Me hold me hold” – both mean “I want to pour” and I was fine with it…until I wasn’t. He started making quite a mess everywhere.
At first I told myself that, that was perfectly fine. He is only 2, he was doing an otherwise great job pouring, he was making a mess but that’s the fun of it, and what a sweet way to spend time with my son, literally…see logic still lingers in my head somewhere.
Soon though, something took hold over me and my thought processes and I was suddenly overcome with annoyance which soon turned to anger over just how much batter there was around the pan (which would burn in the oven) and how much he was spilling on the kitchen counter, how much of it he had on his shirt and paper towel, how much clean up I now had to do before the guests arrived…sheesh!!! What started out on a happy and exciting note ended up in screams, tears, and later, hugs.
TJ loves emptying my bags. He has loved doing this since he was 10 months old. Then, he emptied his nanny’s bag (but she being a paid employee was always cool about it and sat right there next to him while he explored). Now, he empties pouches and small purses tucked away in different rooms. His favorite is my travel pouch from under the bathroom sink. He opened it yesterday and like he enjoys doing, lined up all the items in a single line outside, on the carpet. In the pouch was one of his all time favorite random items – a lipstick, a surrogate for lipbalm which is his actual favorite random thing.
I wasn’t sure which shade of lipstick this one was so I let him play with it (because he kept saying “Me hold” which in this case I thought he actually meant that he just wanted to hold it). I am not a fan of reds and the muave family of shades. I prefer the browns for my skin tone [I could write an entire post about lipstick shades for the Indian skin but that’s neither here nor there] and this was one of them. In fact, it was one of my favorites (Clinique’s Limited Edition Welcome Wednesday) and I didn’t even know it was there. He wanted to “hold” the lipstick so badly that he even went to bed last night holding that and a small sample size tube of Clinique’s CC Cream.
He still had it this morning when he came down for breakfast. As soon as he saw me, he held it out to me and said, “Mommy balm” which actually sounds like “Mommy bum” which really sounds super cute. So far so good. It was later that all hell broke lose, twice in two days. I am on a ‘Worst Mother of the day’ award roll here.
He brought the lipstick into the kitchen to show it to me only this time he had figured out how to open it and it was when I realized that it was one of my favorites. I put some on right away – yes at 8:12 a.m. Go on, judge me. You weren’t up on and off all night nursing a baby and then laid down to sleep on the floor so you could swing your baby’s Pack N Play so she could sleep. And then, for some reason that I still can’t figure, I handed the opened lipstick back to him. He took it back happily and went away.
I immediately realized what I had done and asked for it back. He would have none of it and like he loves doing, started running around the couch [stems from the many chasing-related games we play] thinking he could make a game out of me trying to chase him to get my lipstick back. I screamed, “Stop running, stop running” fearing he would break the lipstick and when he finally stopped and I approached him, he was still holding the lipstick…and…
BROKEN……………………..The entire tube had come off and only the stub remained. I tried to reattach it but you know how that goes.
I screamed at him, “Look, you broke my lipstick!!!!” and screamed the F-word thrice (not at him but to the Universe in general), even louder – the windows were open. I am sure the neighbors heard, people walking along the side walk probably heard, and perhaps even some people on the VTA Lightrail heard my scream. Then, I just sat down, Indian style. With my head in the palm of my hands, elbows resting on my thighs.
My toddler approached me. Tentatively at first and when I didn’t immediately bark at him to go away, more assertively, and leaned over to see my face. He tried to push my hair back and kissed me ever so softly on my cheek. Not once or twice. Multiple times. He meekly voiced an apologetic “Mawmy…mawmy…” and tried to look at my face. He knew I had caught him red-handed into his crazy obsession with my lipstick. He knew Mommy was upset. On some level, he probably even knew he had betrayed my trust in him to “hold” my lipstick. None of it mattered to him, really. He had just suffered my wrath. My anger and scream had made him coil in fear. He wanted to make it right. He didn’t like seeing Mommy upset. My sweet and sensitive child just wanted things to be better for both of us.
I, on the other hand, was so upset because of a stupid lipstick, I dismissed my child’s loving attention and need to make things right with me. I ignored his “Mawmys” and I did not kiss him back. I just got up and left to pack his snacks for our day’s activities, not saying a word.
All the while, I knew the fault was entirely mine. Again, HE IS A TWO YEAR OLD!!!! I am the frikin’ adult. Time to act like one. If I hadn’t tempted him, dangling that lipstick in front of him like it was a toy, we wouldn’t have been in this situation. I was still angry but this time, the anger was directed inward. I was ashamed. I failed my child. Miserably. I used to say “I am an Okay mom”. I wonder if there is anything even lower/not-as-great-sounding as “okay”. Perhaps I am just a shitty mom and that’s just that. No justification, no reasoning, and no explanation required. I’m just that.
One day I’ll write about just how sorry I am to have screwed up my child’s childhood and hope that I can continue to make it up to TJ and Baby E (in the future) for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, there is a lot of learning to do…
I am participating in a week-long (Aug 1 – Aug 7) writing challenge. The prompt for Aug 4 is ‘Caught Red-Handed’.
See my other prompts-related posts: (note – the dates are a little off in the US because they are based on when those days begin in India)
August 1 – Stranger than Fiction – A Reality that is Stranger than Fiction
August 2 – What you don’t know – What You Don’t Know as a Parent and Child
August 3 – Fragile Lives – Fragile Lives: Fragile Moments – Cherishing the Last Times